North Korea, Ukraine At the Abyss

2 12 2009

Today brings unsettling news about two countries in our world:

  1. North Korea revalued its currency, thereby wiping out personal savings;
  2. Ukraine essentially declared martial law over its mysterious deadly flu epidemic.

First, North Korea.

Washington Post‘s Blaine Harden reports from Tokyo that:

Chaos reportedly erupted in North Korea on Tuesday after the government of Kim Jong Il revalued the country’s currency, sharply restricting the amount of old bills that could be traded for new and wiping out personal savings.

The currency move appeared to be part of a continuing government crackdown on private markets, which have become an essential part of the food-supply system in the chronically hungry North.

In recent years, some market traders have stashed away substantial amounts of cash, while establishing themselves in profitable businesses that the government struggles to control.

But under the rules of the new currency system, the wealth of these traders has largely disappeared, unless it is held in euros, dollars or Chinese yuan. The revaluation replaces 1,000-won notes with 10-won notes but strictly limits the amount of old currency that can be exchanged…at 100,000 won, which at current black-market rates amounts to $40. All North Korean currency that individuals possess in excess of that amount becomes worthless under the revaluation.

…”I worked like a dog for two months for the winter, but the money became useless paper overnight,” a resident of Sinuiju, a city that borders China, was quoted as saying on the Web site of Good Friends, a South Korea-based aid organization with informants in the North.

…In the past year, North Korea has put increasing pressure on local markets, closing several and limiting the range of goods that can be sold in them. The government has also criminalized everyday market behavior while creating a new kind of gulag for those it deems economic criminals….security forces in North Korea have broad discretion to detain without trial nearly anyone who buys or sells in the local markets….

If the currency move substantially cripples the operation of local markets in the North, the consequences could be severe for the millions who depend on them for food. U.N. officials have estimated that as much as half the calories consumed by North Koreans come from food bought in markets. South Korean officials said last month that North Korea appears to be on the brink of another severe food crisis, with stocks of food likely to run short by March.


Martial Law Declared In Ukraine Over Mystery Epidemic 051109Ukraine2

Meanwhile, in Ukraine (formerly part of the Soviet Union), President Victor Yushchenko all but declared martial law as he announced on November 4 that the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) will become the supreme ruling authority in the wake of a mystery epidemic sweeping the country.

Ukraine has been plagued by a mysterious flu epidemic, believed to be a combination of THREE flu viruses (2 seasonal + H1N1) which, according to its medical professionals, lead to death via profuse bleeding in the lungs. The virus enters directly into the lungs, resulting in bleeding, cardiopulmonary insufficiency and cardiogenic shock, instead of pneumonia.

Yushchenko has made high ranking health ministers members of the NSDC, a government body consisting of the president himself, the chairman of parliament, the prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the head of the Security Service of Ukraine and other high ranking ministers.

Yushchenko told reporters that “the non-fulfillment” of the NSDC’s decisions will be prosecuted,” adding “We need to change the system. We need to change the whole system of the state power organization in Ukraine. We have no time for remonstrance no time for waiting”. Yushchenko reiterated his statements In an official address to the Ukrainian people, saying, “Failure to comply with [NSDC] orders will immediately result in application to the law enforcement authorities.”

A further report from Interfax Ukrainia Agency says the Ukrainian Health Minister Wasilij Kniazevicz has asked the country’s top prosecutor to open criminal proceedings against those who are opposed to the implementation of the mass flu vaccination campaign.

Yushchenko’s address also issued a ban on all flu medicines not recognized by the Ukrainian government or by the World Health Organization. He said,  “People are dying. The epidemic is killing doctors. This is absolutely unprecedented and inconceivable in the XXI century. All the limits have been exceeded – even those under the Constitution that determine my actions as the President.”





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